Back in the day, the Willys CJ or "civilian jeeps" were the first civilian versions of the famous Willys Military Jeeps from World War 2. Due to the constant screening of war films and propaganda during those times, the popularity of these vehicles increased and soon there was a huge public clamor for civilian versions of the jeep. The civilian jeeps had a number of different models but the one that most people are probably familiar with would be the Jeep CJ5. More than 603,303 CJ5s were produced from1954 up to 1983 making it one very popular vehicle at the time.
As the Jeep brand bounced from one owner to another, the specifications for the CJ5 continued to vary. But it retained its iconic look and feel as a tough and rugged off-road vehicle, which is much appreciated by 4x4 enthusiasts who continue to use the CJ5 today. CJ5 parts differed depending on the year that the vehicle was produced and which company manufactured it at the time. As such, it is important for Jeep CJ5 owners to get parts that are compatible with their ride. For example, the tops of the 1955 to 1975 model will not fit the redesigned CJ5 from 1976 up to 1983. Fortunately, retailers and aftermarket suppliers are aware of the differences and have made products for the different variants of the CJ5
The Jeep CJ line produced a lot of different variations of the original "jeep" that ended with the CJ10. It was later replaced with the Jeep Wrangler in 1987 under Chrysler. Nevertheless, the Jeep CJ5 has retained its popularity throughout its three decade run. Its enduring popularity has influenced later Jeep designs, and much of it can be seen in the Wrangler which has replaced it. Spanning seven different variants and three corporate parents, the CJ5 has proven itself to one be tough and classic ride.
Fun Facts about the Jeep CJ5
The name "CJ" in the Jeep CJ5 is said to stand for "Civilian Jeep," because back in 1945 (when the first of the CJ series was launched) the jeep usually refers to military vehicles. However, this bit is still being argued over by many enthusiasts. In fact, nobody really knows where the brand name "Jeep" came from either.
The Jeep CJ5 came about in the year 1954 as a civilian version of the US military's M-38A1, which came out in 1952. It stayed in production for almost 30 years, longer than any other Jeep model. The Jeep CJ5 was then taken out of production beginning 1983.
The Jeep CJ5 was actually produced by two companies-the Kaiser Company and the American Motors Corporation. The first one to build it was the Kaiser Company, who gave it the name Kaiser Jeep, and continued selling it from 1954 to 1969. By 1970, the company was sold to the American Motors Corporation (AMC), who then continued making the CJ5 until 1983.
The semi-circular cutout on the hood of early Jeep CJ5 models was intended for a snorkel attachment in an event that the vehicle had to run in waist-high water. This is a feature that the CJ5 and the military-spec M38A-a US military vehicle used during the Korean War-had in common.
The Jeep CJ5 became the benchmark for functionality and utility throughout its 28-year production. Even though many of its critics referred to the inherent safety limitations of its small, 81-inch wheelbase, the initial intent of the vehicle's design was really for utility. This means that the vehicle can still drive in tight, inhospitable conditions such as narrow trails with undercarriage-busting rocks and unstable surfaces.
When reading from the VIN number of a Jeep CJ5, one can already know the following details: the vehicle's year, plant and transmission, model, body type, gross vehicle weight, and engine. There are different VIN sequences from the 1971 to 1974, 1975 to 1980, and 1981 to 1986 models, however. One can find the CJ5's VIN number on the driver's side firewall near the brake master cylinder, the driver's side dashboard, or the inside body panel near the parking brake lever.
Jeep CJ5 Problems
The Jeep CJ5 is one of the classic
civilian jeeps still being sold in the used cars market. Because of its great functionality and utility, many enthusiasts still want a piece of this vehicle. However, current and prospective owners should be aware that like the other older CJ models, the Jeep CJ5 has its fair share of problems.
The stock Jeep CJ5 pitman arm is made out of ductile cast iron and is most likely to bend if hard wheeling with larger tires is applied. Owners should periodically inspect the pitman arm nut to ensure that it is tight. This can help prevent the splines from stripping out.
The pitman arm is also prone to bending under heavy load. In order to retain the flat-type arm, owners could carry a replacement component and a pitman arm puller with them while out on a drive. They could also look for a thicker arm from a '70s GM vehicle in the junkyard. Jeep CJ5 owners should also check heavy-duty replacements offered in the market today.
The axleshafts are not bad overall and their design allows these to be easily rebuilt. However, one of the Jeep CJ5's weaknesses is that it uses two-piece shafts that are weaker compared to a one-piece axle shaft. Having larger tires and driving on rough terrain can strain the components, which can then lead to breakage.
Manual transmission lubricant
The original production lubricant used in T4 and T5 manual transmission-equipped Jeep CJ5 had been found inadequate in providing lubrication to protect the transmission's first gear. All Jeep dealers had been advised to replace the defect at no charge to the owner. Extreme cases of neglecting this problem include the transmission failing to operate due to lack of lubrication. This failure could occur without prior warning and may cause an accident. All owners who have not had their Jeep CJ5s serviced must avoid driving at highway speeds. Lastly, those who drive the models with 5-speed transmission must not use the fifth gear.
Both the five- and six-bolt external-body locking hubs were held with bolts that could work loose with even just the moderate wheeling. Frequent inspection and usage of lock washers are not enough to make sure that Jeep CJ5 owners will not suffer a catastrophic failure due to loosening bolts. Instead, replace the bolts with studs in order to equally distribute the load and help prevent the hubs from loosening. Using lock washers under the studs and even doubling the nuts installed will provide increased reliability and longevity.
How to Keep the Jeep CJ5 Fresh and Clean
The Jeep CJ5 is one of the oldest models of the Jeep brand dating back as early as 1955 and is designed to endure the most strenuous road conditions. It was used as a military vehicle and a workhorse in farms, ranch, mines, and other inhospitable work environments in the past. But even today, the CJ5 is regarded as a highly functional and reliable off-road vehicle. Thus, because of this, all the more maintenance should be done to keep this workhorse functioning at its best. Now if you happen to have one, you must clean your rig since dirt, mud, and dust contain corrosive components that can harm your vehicle. But that shouldn't end there. Here are more tips on how to keep your Jeep C5 fresh and clean:
- Inspect and change the transmission fluid.
Compared to on-road vehicles, off-road vehicles are more dependent on their transmissions, resulting in their premature wearing. Overheating is so common especially for automatic transmission, thus replacing the transmission fluid should be done regularly. Also, it would be best to have an auxiliary oil cooler installed to help cool down the engine and the transmission. Be sure to change the oil filter and see to it that you refill the transmission fluid only until the level prescribed in the owner's manual of your vehicle.
- Check the transfer case and refill if necessary.
In a perfect off-road driving scenario, the transfer case usually doesn't get super-hot, however if it does get overly hot, then there must be a leak, causing the level of the fluid to drop. You need to refill the fluid and fix the leak before it damages the metal gears and chain drives.
- Examine the differentials.
Off-road vehicles are equipped with complex limited-slip or locking differential that calls for continuous lubrication to keep them working properly. When not properly lubricated, they can get damaged. Leaks should be repaired at the soonest time possible since it's not only the transmission that will be affected but also the brake function.
- Give your off-road vehicle a bath.
Nothing can compare to a good bath. After a hard day on the road, make sure to give your ride a bath. The simple use of water hose will suffice. Don't forget to wash those hard to reach parts of your beloved rig. If you prefer thorough cleaning, then take your rig to a detailing shop to get rid of dirt and mud that have accumulated especially under the chassis.
- Use only cleaning products that are safe on your Jeep's paintjob.
Car cleaning products have come a long way, especially in terms of ingredients used. Most car cleaning products that we have today are gentle and safe for use on car paints. So you can clean that dirty rig of yours anytime that you want without the worries.
Lastly, an important reminder when it comes to using a power hose: never use it directly on a specific spot on the paint of your Jeep since it can strip away the wax as well as damage the paint itself. Also, refrain from blasting off grease and lubrication where they are needed.
Jeep CJ5: From the Battlefields to the Main Roads
Since World War II, the Jeep has become synonymous with reliability and ruggedness. Even after the war, the utility of such a simple yet efficient platform was recognized. It was inevitable, really, that the Jeep would eventually reach the civilian sector eventually. Unsurprisingly, the very qualities that made it such an effective military platform were the same qualities that appealed to consumers across America. The Jeep CJ5 sits square in the middle of a long evolution of the platform. In a sense, it represents both a milestone into the future and a record of the past for this venerable machine.
1954-1975: Planting the flag firmly
Just as the original Jeep was strongly influenced by its performance in the Second World War, the CJ5 too was a result of experiences of the M38 Jeep during the Korean War. In its long run, the CJ5 had the distinct honor of being a vehicle difficult to kill off—boasting of the longest production run in the brand’s long history. While its appearance varied little from its predecessor, the CJ5 got the option to upgrade to a more powerful Perkins 192 cu. In. Diesel Inline-4 engine with 62-horsepower output—very reasonable for the simplicity and rugged nature of the design.
In 1965, the CJ-5 finally got a permanent engine upgrade with the Buick 225 cu. In. V6 Dauntless which was capable of putting out over 155-horsepower. It is interesting to note that power steering came as an $ 81 option instead of a standard. In 1969, for added safety, side marker lights were added. In 1970, when the CJ5’s parent company was sold to American Motors, the Dauntless was retired completely. This lead to the installation of AMC’s own engines in 1972—a one-barrel 3.8-L proprietary engine was one such example. Additionally, CJ5 purchasers could opt for a beefier 5.0-L V8—this was the age where muscle cars were all the rage.
To make room for the newer, larger engines, the hood and fenders were stretched 5 inches and the wheelbase stretched to 3 inches as well. The front axle became a full-floating Dana 30, allowing for better dampening in even more rugged applications. In 1973, a new dash was put in with as single central gauge housing the speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges.
1977-1983: Preparing for the future
By 1976, a couple of more extreme changes were made on the CJ5. For one thing, the main body “tub” became far more rounded, the windshield frame and angle were also changed—this meant that soft-tops compatible with earlier CJ-models would not fit the CJ5. This same year saw yet another suspension upgrade to the AMC-20 which had a larger diameter ring gear, but used a two-piece axleshaft and hub assembly instead of a sturdier one-piece. Power disc brakes and a new tachometer became available in 1977—while AM/FM radios became options in 1981.
Of engine upgrades, the most important in this closing era was the Hurricane-branded GM Iron Duke Inline-4 with an SR4 close-ratio four-speed manual transmission controlling it. The funny thing about the CJ5 was that it even outlasted its “successor” the CJ6 by a couple of years. In fact, it would be the “5” that will be the basis for even the more modern iterations of this venerable classic.